On a recent rainy afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting Helen Gwyn at Salem Gem Lab and Jewelry Store in Winston-Salem. Helen refers to the store as her “small, hometown studio,” and the description is apt. The gray skies outside were no match for the warmth and bright welcome I received inside!
I was immediately greeted by Hannah Hobson, Helen’s granddaughter. Occasionally, you might also find Amy Hobson, Helen’s daughter, helping out in the studio. Amy was recruited when Helen realized that as much as she loved the busy pace, she needed help with the growing business. The Salem Gem Lab team also includes Pat Fairall, who has been working in the jewelry business in the Triad her whole life!
Behind the scenes is Salem Gem Lab’s own Master Jeweler, Heng Tan, who does in-house repairs and will drop everything when a customer comes in needing work done immediately. A unique feature of Salem Gem Lab’s repair services is that absolutely nothing is sent out to be repaired; all work is done in-house, and customers with an appointment are even invited to wait and sometimes watch as work or appraisals are conducted. Do you have an heirloom pearl necklace that needs to be restrung? Salem Gem Lab has an in-house pearl stringer, which you can imagine is a rare and highly technical skill.
Last but not least on the team is “Head of Security and Chief Door Opener” John Gwyn. That’s right; even Helen’s husband makes time to support his busy wife by contributing to the exceptional customer service philosophy that Salem Gem Lab is known for.
Salem Gem Lab is a jewelry store that truly sets itself apart from the expectations of a typical shopping or jewelry repair experience. For one thing, Helen has an impressive list of accreditations and education, as she is one of the only jewelers in the area that keeps up with the industry’s continuing education classes. With a career that began as a jewelry insurance appraiser, Helen is an Accredited Senior Gemologist, a member of the International Society of Appraisers, a Graduate Gemologist of Gemological Institute of America, a Senior Member of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers and Member of Certified Insurance Appraiser (ACCORD).
Helen began her career in the mid-1980s and incorporated Salem Gem Lab in 1986. After overseeing a large retail store in Yadkinville for many years while also appraising, Helen thought she would retire. “I didn’t like retirement one bit, and I came back as fast as possible,” said Helen of the brief time she spent working from home during her “retirement.” Helen’s loyal customers never stopped reaching out, and she said that she missed the face-to-face with them, so returning to a retail setting was an easy choice for her. Salem Gem Lab opened in the former MedSpa location on Harvey Street in 2016. Customers appreciate the ample parking and the ease of finding the shop.
Although it is apparent that Helen’s passion for her work leaves very little room for recreation, she and John do make time for fun! They are active shag dancers and enjoy kicking up their heels at local restaurants with dance floors; and they sneak off to the coast once in a while for SOS: Shaggers on the Sand! Dancing is a befitting pastime since they officially met at a dance outing in Lewisville – two years after a casual meeting in which John proclaimed that he was “going to marry that girl someday!”
It’s safe to say that one of the many reasons for the success of Salem Gem Lab is that there are two determined personalities behind it creating a fulfilling life and that joy comes through for every customer!
For more information about Salem Gem Lab and Jewelry Store, visit salemgemlab.com or on Facebook: facebook.com/salemgemlab, Instagram: instagram.com/salemgemlab and at their YouTube channel. Salem Gem Lab and Jewelry Store is located at 410 Harvey Street in Winston-Salem, and the phone number is 336.893.7207.